Porto got their post Villas-Boas era off to a winning start, Bayern Munich trounced Hamburg 5-0, and the Big Two in Spain both played friendlies, with Fabregas notching his first goal for Barcelona. But the focus was firmly on Arsenal as the European season stuttered toward an international break:
U-20: Brazil v. Portugal: An amazing, back-and-forth game gave many offensive players the chance to show their worth. It wasn’t a great night for the goalkeepers, however, with Portugal in particular looking very weak when under pressure. Two of Oscar’s goals were floated in from long range, and one was off a rebound, but the best example was when an optimistic Oscar tried a shot that should have come nowhere close to going in, but almost sneaked between the defender, goalkeeper, and crossbar. Oscar scored three times, but like several other games this tournament, the game hinged on the introduction of Dudu.
Arsenal v. Liverpool: Both teams disappointed, but there was no way Arsenal were going to get the three points, with their squad as thin as it was. It was a good game, and Liverpool did have two enormous first half chances, but they probably should have had a couple more. It’s still early though- they likely would have gotten more chances if this game had happened a few weeks later in the season. Either way, it wasn’t until Suarez gave Liverpool an extra dimension- the space he got from Frimpong’s sending off helped- that they started to click. The first goal was unlucky, but Suarez would probably have gotten a couple more, if pressed. And Arsenal can have no complaints about the red card- Frimpong could have had four yellow cards, the way he fouled players at every opportunity.
Udinese v. Arsenal: With the temporary return from suspension of Song, and Frimpong, Arsenal stepped up their game when they needed it most; their play in the second half was great to see. They had to ride their luck, as well: Udinese hit the post at least twice in the first half, as well as having a goal disallowed, and a penalty saved. For both teams, the level of play spells a step back from last year.
Manchester United v. Arsenal: Scoring two goals away from home is usually a good sign, but it was the worst day possible for Arsenal (unless they get relegated). They were lucky not to allow ten. Props to De Gea for a key penalty save, but this young United team seem to be winning in spite of him, not because of him. The second goal was another that he really shouldn’t have allowed. In the end, the game was much more about United’s brilliance going forward than either Arsenal or De Gea. Who can stop them when they play like this? Well, maybe, Manchester City, who’s start to the season has been just as impressive. Dzeko and Aguero have been the Premier League’s twp best players, so far.
Barcelona v. Villarreal: One week gone in Spain, and the next 37 will probably look very similar. We know Real Madrid can, and will, win by six or seven every week, so Barcelona made a real statement (no pun intended) by beating Villarreal, a better team than Real Sociedad- whom Madrid beat 6-0- five to zero, especially given their early rust last year (against Hercules). Barcelona never came out of third gear, put Villarreal barely touched the ball. Both Real and Barcelona are in mid-season form after long preseasons, so expect very similar scores next week. And the week after that. And the week after that…